“The Wild Eyes of the Lady Ligeia”: The Underlying Horror of the Lover’s Gaze

Essay completed 20 September 2016

The eye is just as important to the Romantic movement as the heart. Romantic literature celebrates the external just as much as the internal through the outer beauty of the natural world. Edgar Allan Poe’s 1838 Gothic tale “Ligeia” reflects this Romantic celebration of the eye, vision being a pivotal subject of the tale. For the majority of the tale, the male protagonist observes two female characters, first Ligeia, then Rowena. The eye is a motif throughout, eye color being one of the primary characteristics by which the narrator describes the dark-eyed Ligeia and the blue-eyed Rowena. The narrator’s gaze dominates the majority of the tale; he begins by describing Ligeia and concludes by observing Rowena’s corpse. Continue reading ““The Wild Eyes of the Lady Ligeia”: The Underlying Horror of the Lover’s Gaze”

Beyond the Veil: Staging and Violence in Agamemnon and The Libation Bearers

Image by Grady Pearson

Essay completed 26 October 2015

“Greek theatre was an exercise of the eye,” says Camille Paglia (Paglia 104). In the first two plays of the Oresteia, Aeschylus explores the dichotomy of the seen and the unseen in two climactic murder revelation scenes. Clytemnestra murders her husband and his concubine in Agamemnon, only to be murdered alongside her lover by her son in The Libation Bearers. When Clytemnestra kills Agamemnon and his concubine, the chorus and the audience can only hear the king’s dying cries (Agamemnon 1369). Aegisthus meets his end the same way, behind the skene where his murderer awaits (The Libation Bearers 857). Orestes then pulls his mother into the palace and kills her offstage (The Libation Bearers 918). All four murders occur behind the palace walls and out of the audience’s sight. Aeschylus’ decision not to depict any violence onstage makes his audience “imagine the horror of the killing… an effect more powerful than words alone…” (Wiles 140). Continue reading “Beyond the Veil: Staging and Violence in Agamemnon and The Libation Bearers”

Engendering Confusion: Hermaphroditus, Bacchus, and Male Identity

Image by Grady Pearson

Essay completed 22 January 2016

The story of Hermaphroditus and Salmacis seems to upend the motif of male-on-female rape that runs through Ovid’s Metamorphoses. In the story told in lines 4.392-424, the nymph Salmacis falls in love with Hermaphroditus, the son of Mercury and Venus. After the boy rejects her offer of marriage, Salmacis attempts to rape him in a spring. She refuses to let go despite his struggling and asks the gods to never separate her from him (4.409). The gods answer her prayers and she and Hermaphroditus become “blended” into one body (4.410). Ovid’s exploration of role reversal and identity make this story unique from all the preceding rape narratives he tells in Metamorphoses. The motifs of violence, transformation, and gender fluidity in the story demonstrate the power of Bacchus in the epic, even though the god does not appear in this story. Continue reading “Engendering Confusion: Hermaphroditus, Bacchus, and Male Identity”